On Friday 17th of February, 40 lucky students in Years 7 and 8 set off from school to Heathrow Airport. We  were going to Italy, to visit Naples, Pompeii and Herculaneum, furthering our knowledge of Roman civilisation and seeing some Italian culture as well. We were all so grateful for the opportunity and had an amazing time. 

On Saturday morning, we travelled to the other side of the bay, with our eyes set on the towering Mt Vesuvius. First on the itinerary was walking up to the crater, because only then could we understand the area that Vesuvius destroyed and would destroy if such a violent eruption occurred today. I think it made us realise the magnitude of the impact if the volcano erupted in such a way again and helped us in understanding what the residents of Pompeii and Herculaneum experienced in 79 AD.

In the afternoon, after Vesuvius, we entered the ancient town of Pompeii. We had all studied this in Latin lessons, but although we had seen the photos it was so interesting to see everything in real life. As close to what those in Pompeii would have seen, as possible. We saw some amazingly preserved buildings, including the house of Caecilius (who the first Latin textbook follows), an amazingly well preserved house known as the house of the faun and many others. However, some of the most impressive things we saw were structures like the theatre and the temple of Isis because it gives so much more of an insight into the lives of Romans 2000 years ago. We all really enjoyed Pompeii because it felt like a moment of history that was frozen when the volcano erupted.

The next day we visited Herculaneum. Herculaneum was a more residential town compared to the industrial, busy Pompeii. It was affected by the volcano, however it was impacted in a very different was. Pompeii was crushed by the ash and pumice, whereas Herculaneum was destroyed by the lava. The lava cooled off very quickly and as a result some wood was left charred instead of totally destroyed. There were also more more wall paintings – depicting Roman and Greek myths, the theatre or simply floral and decorative patterns – which really characterised some of the houses. We got to see amazing statues and also saw and discussed the remnants of those who tried to shelter from the volcano in the boathouse as it was an important part of history. We all really enjoyed Herculaneum as we got to see how houses and homes would have looked like 1,944 years ago.

Another amazing experience we had was visiting a virtual reality museum. None of the staff had visited before so it was new to all of us, however we would all recommend it. Firstly, we were plunged into 79AD when the volcano was erupting. The film took us to through the streets and up to the volcano when lava was bubbling in the crater and a large cloud of ash started to emerge. Many of us in Year 8 (who had translated the story when Vesuvius erupted) were taken aback at how violent the eruption was and how distressing it must have been having nowhere to go, where you could truly be safe. It was eye-opening, because you thought of the real people who had died praying to the Gods, instead of characters in a story. We also got to see an amazing exhibition, which had many videos to watch, QR codes to scan and information to read. We found out about how the architects excavated Pompeii and Herculaneum, as well as some of the finds that have been most influential in our perception of Roman culture. One of these finds was the “House of the Tragic Poet”. It was one of the most richly decorated houses in Pompeii. Its name originated from a mosaic of a theatre rehearsal by a choir of satyrs, and it also had many frescos (wall paintings) depicting scenes like Ariadne being abandoned by Theseus.

On the Monday morning, before we travelled back to England in the afternoon, we visited many amazing places. We went down a ancient tunnel that was considered as an entrance way to the underworld. We discussed many Roman Myths about the heroes who had entered the underworld, including Heracles/Hercules, Theseus and the man who Romulus and Remus (the founders of Rome) descended from, Aeneas. We also got to visit one of the best preserved amphitheatres in the area, which was in Cuma. We got to go below the amphitheater, into where wild beasts and gladiators were kept before a fight. Our last event of the trip was visiting the Naples National Archaeological Museum. We saw amazing wall paintings, mosaics and statues, many of which were from Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Thank you so much to all the staff, tour guides and hotel staff. We had such a brilliant time and are so lucky to have the opportunity of such an experience.

Henry M (Year 8 College House)